High on Bath Salts
On what exactly? Just ask the googles. They’ll tell. Plumb those tubes, you. You’ll see. There’s one of this guy flipping himself near watermelons. By gardenias that won’t grow when you get them home. The title says ‘High on Bath Salts’ and the Scorsese who’s phone shooting it says so too at the start (in case you missed it) but that caption won’t hold. The real subject is the people who bascart by, trying hard not to notice him flopping wheeze and stammer, for the whole epileptic world to see.
I’m struck by the freedom of unattended melons in bins. Planets of summer juice ripe for the taking. I’m struck by the elderly couple in slow cybernetic indifference. Their oxygen tubes stretch to resperate it all coolly in. I’m struck by the invisible man whose basso profundos prison and street, but here on the wild apron of the supermarket, his voice is a patient mother’s brush on tangled hair, saying over and again how it’s all right, it’s okay and it’s going to be okay.
I’m struck by the possibility of children. At minute two, I fear this video may be pregnant. I fear (and wish) that this violence of guttural zombie lurching will become the unlikely backdrop for a passing child. But this is a supermarket. Childhood sorrow happens here, crowding up the express lane. Crying cycles the mist on the broccoli. It spawns old ladies on Saturday with morsels of breakfast sausage skewered on paper plates. You don’t need fifteen items or less to get a taste. Look harder and you’ll see. The interior beyond the video, not past its fourth wall but its second, is full of slow roaming loud wailing supermarket children, for which this man—now ripping off his hoodie the way a snake exuviates last season’s skin—is merely the metaphor. All of them are lost or smacked or unrequited of wanted things. Their tears magnify dirty lips neon-lined in purple or aquamarine. Or cheek freckles. Fresh lobsters pinned under fluorescents. Fat and balmy. Rembrandt’s nose. Eighty cents a peck.
And then I wonder about the cell phone Scorsese as my scrubber crawls towards the end. The icon for exit full screen is an open iron cross. Is that the medal he sought? Do they give awards to backyard Ernie Pyles? How fresh the story headlined High on Bath Salts. Supermarket Loses War on Drugs. Or Zombie Apocalypse, Melons Keep Watch. We’ve lost more than our healthy sense of apposition, those commas that caesura our history with wit, that slice up events not just to break them down but to break them open. And then I am not so safe anymore lost on my laptop milk carton in supermarket attics of abstraction. The crazed man finds uncertain footing. The scrubber is a legless millipede. And the sensitive gangster hurls his last it’s okay just as that corner watermelon proves it is not a handle and that gravity watches too.
< originally published in JMWW Review >